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Around the Playground

This "playground potpourri" is compiled by Editor Stephen Kelly

11 ASTM Playground Standards ... and Counting

There are currently 11 ASTM playground standards In 2008, the handbook was updated based on comments from members of the ASTM F15 playground committees.
Cost of Wisconsin

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's Handbook for Public Playground Safety surfaced, so to speak, in 1981 as a two-volume set. The guidelines addressed protective surfacing and age-appropriate playground equipment for children 12 or under. Ten years later, the Standard Specification for Impact Attenuation of Surface Systems Under and Around Playground Equipment (ASTM F1292) was first published. The original handbook was replaced by a single volume containing recommendations based on a COMSIS Corp. report to the CPSC ("Development of Human Factors Criteria for Playground Equipment Safety").

The first version of a the voluntary standard for public play ground equipment (ASTM F1487 -- Standard Consumer Safety Performance Specification for Playground Equipment for Public Use) was published in 1993, with revisions occurring periodically.

In 2005, the first version of a voluntary standard for playground equipment intended for children under two years old (ASTM F23731.5.1) was published.

Significant Revisions for 2008 to the standards include:


  • Age ranges expanded to include children as young as six months based on ASTM F2373
  • Guidelines for track rides and log rolls added
  • Exit zone requirements for slides harmonized with ASTM F1487


  • Critical height table revised
  • Suggestions for surfacing over asphalt added


  • Suggestions on sun exposure added


  • Editorial changes to make the handbook easier to understand and use!

CPSC strongly recommends against installing playgrounds over hard surfaces unless the installation adds over the hard surface 3-6 inch base layer of loose-fill (for drainage), then a layer of geotextile cloth, on top of which should be a loose-fill layer meeting the specifications in Table 2. Impact attenuating mats should be embedded in the loose-fill layer under high traffic areas, e.g., under swings, at slide exits.

GameTime--EveryBODY Plays

A priority of the EveryBODY Plays program is to "advocate for play from the child's perspective."
Photo: GameTime

In the playground, GameTime's philosophy is that kids should play together, regardless of age or ability. This idea motivated the company to develop its "7 Principals of Inclusive Design," the framework for its EveryBODY Plays Program Guide. The guide is an educational resource for communities/designers that are planning, revitalizing and/or building playgrounds. This guide promotes the understanding and value of inclusive, universally designed outdoor play environments for people of all abilities.

The company states: "A priority of this program is to advocate for play from the child's perspective. In other words, we have focused not just on what adults believe to be developmentally important but also on the actual experiences and feelings the child has during play."

The concept of "universal design" means designing environments usable by as many people as possible, i.e., adapting equipment design to meet the needs of the users, rather than forcing users to adapt to the equipment. "It is important to understand that play environments may be accessible, yet not usable."

The EveryBODY Plays Program Guide describes each principle of inclusive design, the guidelines, benefits, application examples, and a planning checklist.

Bob Farnsworth, CEO of GameTime's parent company, PlayCore, told BusinessTN magazine he believes the company isn't just making playground equipment, but facilitating child development. He notes that PlayCore's growth in the late 1990s was due to the demand for new playgrounds and the tax dollars to fund them, driven by more rigorous safety standards, the "obesity epidemic" and changing demographics. Today, Farnsworth says university-based research is driving product development.

To find out more about the EveryBODY Plays Program Guide, go to

Recycled Tires in Missouri

Tire-derived products are used in and for these purposes and more: accessibility ramps/paths; drains; erosion control; floor mats and tiles; horse stalls/arenas; interior flooring; landscape materials; office supplies; railroad crossings; mulch/bark; asphalt; sidewalks; soil amendments; sound barriers; speed bumps; surfacing; traffic cones; tree care.
Photo: University of Buffalo

In the July LASN Letters section, Jack Rossi, RLA, of Strafford, Vermont expressed his "continued frustration" for projects by landscape architects that specify artificial turf. He asserted "numerous studies have been conducted and validated, indicating tire crumbs in artificial turf contain significant amounts of volatile organic compounds, including benzothiazole, hexadecane, 4-(tert-Octyl)-phenol and butylated hyroxyanisole. These chemicals are irritants at the least and carcinogens at the worst."

The News-Leader (Springfield, Missouri) reports that several area school districts, through a $95,000 Scrap Tire Playground Surfacing Material grant, will install playground cover made of scrap tires. The grant is through the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and, of course, promotes the use of recycled scrap tires for playground cover or surfacing material for running tracks, walking trails or other surfacing projects.

The Republic Early Childhood Center and the West Plains elementary and middle schools will receive funding through the program.

Physician Coalition to Build "Safe Playground"

The Salt Lake Tribune reports the city council has agreed to put up $75,000 toward a "safe playground" that the Injury Free Coalition for Kids of Salt Lake City plans to build at Fitts Park.

The project will be the physician-led group's first playground in Utah, part of a national program aimed at curbing childhood injuries through research, education and advocacy.

The coalition asserts it found evidence of high childhood-injury rates in the South Salt Lake area.

Steve Rogers, MD, a member of the coalition, reports the group has secured $90,000 in private funding for the playground, including a $70,000 grant from the Allstate Foundation, plus $10,000 has been donated for maintenance. South Salt Lake will apply $48,000 in federal grants on top of the $75,000 in city funds.

Fitts Park already has two small play areas, which will mostly remain in place. The new playground is scheduled for a Sept. 14, 2008 installation. The Injury Free Coalition will provide the design, which features ample viewing areas for parents and materials engineered to resist wear-and-tear and to minimize scrapes and cuts. The jungle gym, for instance, has an eight-foot climbing wall, swing set and a giant dragon that sits on "flexible safety tiles with fingers that extend into the ground" to cushion children's falls.

"Slowly bringing the play sets up to code."

KIDK-TV in Idaho Falls, Idaho reports a common safety concern for schools across the country. Some playgrounds in the Bonneville Joint School District are deemed in a dangerous state of disrepair--rotting wood pieces and inadequate surfacing under play equipment. The TV station stated the school district is "committed to slowly bringing the play sets up to code." One playground is being worked on, and three more this summer.

"They (the playgrounds) met the standards when they were installed and we didn't continue to chase the standard," Health and Safety Health Coordinator Guy Bliesner told the news station. Bliesner expects the playgrounds will likely meet all of the standards set by the ASTM by next summer.

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December 11, 2019, 1:12 pm PDT

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